April 3, 2019
New BQE panel will look at options for replacement of the aging highway, including the triple cantilever structure that supports the Brooklyn Heights Promenade; Panel includes leaders in academia, industry groups, civic organizations, labor and business
NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced the formation of a new expert panel to evaluate options for the replacement of the aging Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) from the Atlantic Avenue interchange to Sands Street in Brooklyn. The new panel will be chaired by Carlo Scissura, President & CEO of The New York Building Congress and will include a range of leaders in the fields of urban planning, engineering, construction, traffic modeling and historic preservation. Panel members’ backgrounds include academia, industry groups, civic organizations, labor, and business. They will consult community groups and elected officials, and evaluate all suggested concepts -- as well as provide their own perspectives. They are expected to conclude the process by this summer. The formal environmental process for the BQE reconstruction will take these recommendations into consideration when it begins at the end of 2019.
“The BQE is a lifeline for Brooklyn and the entire city – which is why we are bringing in a panel of nationally renowned experts from a range of fields to vet all ideas and make sure we get this right,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We will be engaging in a transparent, collaborative process to find the best solution for one of the most critical transportation corridors in the nation.”
The new BQE Panel was created in consultation with local elected officials and civic associations. It will bring together a group of independent, interdisciplinary experts to evaluate the BQE project assumptions and concepts, with meetings beginning this month. This outside expertise is expected to find new perspectives and ask probing questions on how best to design and implement the BQE reconstruction, one of the largest and most complex infrastructure projects in the entire country.
The members of the new BQE Panel* are:
Carlo Scissura, NY Building Congress (Chair)
Rohit Aggarwala, Sidewalk Labs
Vincent Alvarez, New York City Central Labor Council
Kate Ascher, BuroHappold Engineering
Elizabeth Goldstein, Municipal Arts Society
Henry Gutman, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp./Brooklyn Bridge Park
Kyle Kimball, Con Edison
Mitchell Moss, NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
Kaan Ozbay, NYU Tandon School of Engineering
Hani Nassif, Rutgers School of Engineering
Benjamin Prosky, American Institute of Architects
Denise Richardson, General Contractors Association
Ross Sandler, New York Law School
Jay Simson, American Council of Engineering Companies of New York
Tom Wright, Regional Plan Association
Kathryn Wylde, Partnership for NYC
*Additional panelists may be announced
Panel Process: The panel will begin meeting this month, and are expected to produce their conclusions by this summer. It will evaluate underlying project assumptions and review existing proposals, including those that have been generated by elected officials and community members, no-build or reduced capacity options, and other ideas as generated by the panel. The panel will also hear from and consult with a group of elected officials and community, civic, and business associations at key points throughout its review.
At the end of the evaluation process, the panel will submit a brief report, outlining key recommendations, which could address both design concepts and construction innovations.
BQE – Atlantic to Sands: The approximately 1.5-mile section of the BQE between the Atlantic Avenue Interchange and Sands Street is among the most complex highway structures in the country, and includes the triple-cantilever structure of which the Brooklyn Heights promenade is the top-most tier. Originally constructed by Robert Moses, the road was completed in 1954 and carried fewer than 50,000 vehicles daily when it opened.
Today, the roadway is part of Interstate-278, a critical interstate and inter-borough connector -- where daily traffic now exceeds 150,000 vehicles including more than 15,000 trucks. An evaluation by outside consultants hired by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) concluded in 2016 that if the road is not reconstructed by 2026, weight restrictions may need to be added to the structure – including diverting all truck traffic to local roads. In 2018, a new state law was enacted that will allow the BQE project to be constructed using the Design-Build method, which is expected to save time and money.
“Community members and stakeholders across the city have come together to propose new ideas and call for fresh thinking on the BQE, the biggest such project the City has ever undertaken,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “This new panel presents an important opportunity to create the best plan possible -- with community voices heard throughout the process. We also thank the elected officials who have been and will doubtless remain actively engaged as we move forward.”
“I must express my sincerest appreciation to Mayor de Blasio and his administration for entrusting me with this critical role,” said Carlo Scissura, President & CEO of the New York Building Congress, who will serve as BQE Panel Chair. “The panel that has been assembled represents the absolute best minds in urban planning, transportation, business, design, engineering and construction and will create a thoughtful, meaningful and inclusive process. Rebuilding the triple cantilever will affect every community along the BQE – as well as the tens of thousands of commuters that drive on it daily – and it is essential that we come together to ensure this project is done right for each individual neighborhood and all five boroughs. I look forward to working with our incredible DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, the panelists and the residents of New York City to produce an outcome that is in the best interests of everyone.”
“How best to reconstruct the BQE has been a tremendous local transportation challenge for some time. I’m pleased to see the formation of this panel, which will help ensure the full universe of options are fairly considered and vetted from a wide range of perspectives. It is imperative that the panel is committed to ensuring the community is fully engaged and stakeholders will provide frequent, meaningful input throughout the process. Overall, I believe this is a positive step that will bring additional transparency to a project that has wide ranging impact on our local neighborhoods and entire city,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez.
“My elected colleagues and I have spent months diligently working alongside residents of our communities to ensure that the City must explore all feasible responses to the deterioration of the BQE and identify solutions that minimize the harm to all affected neighborhoods before any approach is approved. The panel the Mayor is convening today in response to our concerns should help the City do just that. This is an opportunity to reset the conversation between the City and our communities. I thank Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Trottenberg for taking this important step; the members of the panel for their willingness to take on a challenging assignment in the public interest; Congresswoman Velázquez, Assembly Member Simon, and Council Members Levin and Lander for their leadership throughout this process; and the many members of our communities who have engaged constructively on the many difficult issues before us," said State Senator Brian Kavanagh.
“I’m encouraged that the City has heard the concerns of the community and elected officials and that they are pressing the re-set button on the BQE reconstruction plans by bringing in a panel of experts to look at this process more broadly. This is a critical link in our transportation system and we need broad expertise to ensure that we are examining all feasible repair options and innovative ideas for our transportation network. I commend Commissioner Trottenberg for her work on this enormous undertaking and I am grateful to be working closely with my colleagues Councilmember Levin, Senator Kavanagh and Congresswoman Velázquez. I look forward to ensuring that the new panel consults with the affected communities so that their voices are heard throughout this process,” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon.
“When our community comes together in the name of health and safety, in a united voice, we can be heard. We were heard when we organized to secure design-build authorization for the replacement of the BQE triple cantilever, and we’ve been heard now that we’ve organized out of concern for the initially proposed replacement plan. Now is the time to find a better way to move people through Brooklyn, to design a healthier, more sustainable future. I commend the de Blasio Administration’s decision to take a step back, take in innovative ideas, and take on the best solution that is environmentally sound and supported by our neighbors,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
"This project presents an extraordinary set of challenges that will take the collective thinking of many stakeholders to find the least disruptive, and most effective plan to repair the BQE," said Council Member Stephen Levin. "I'm optimistic that this panel of engineers, architects, and transportation experts will thoroughly engage with community members and stakeholders to ensure that all options are on the table. We must think creatively and be committed to new and innovative ideas. I want to thank the Brooklyn Heights Association, a Better Way, Senator Kavanagh and Assemblymember Simon, Speaker Johnson, Comptroller Stringer, Borough President Adams, and all of the community members for making their voices heard and calling for an expanded process."
“Ever since the City presented its proposals for rebuilding the BQE, the BHA has called for meaningful community involvement in the planning of this massive transportation project as part of a comprehensive and inclusive approach to involve those who will be most affected by the project. We are gratified that the City has now acknowledged our request by convening an outside panel of experts to take a fresh look at the project and evaluate all of the proposals that have been, or may be, submitted by the community, architects, engineers and planners. The BHA is looking forward to working with the panel to help develop a new BQE plan that will serve the transportation needs of the region into the 21st century and will gain the broad support of the affected communities,” said Peter Bray, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Heights Association.
“We applaud the City and DOT for assembling a panel of experts to find a better way to restructure the BQE,” said A Better Way spokeswoman Hilary Jager. “Passionate community voices led us to this moment, and those same voices will demand a say in this process as it moves forward. We look forward to being part of a solution that reimagines the BQE to the benefit of all New Yorkers for decades to come.”
“The CHA is relieved to hear the community and other stakeholders will engage with an expert panel to discuss the entire impact along the entire corridor of the BQE rehabilitation/rebuild. Our concerns in Cobble Hill remain - no through traffic on our local streets, safer on and off ramps at Atlantic Avenue and better quality of life with less toxins in the air and more green space to enjoy the views and gain safe access to the waterfront,” said Amy Breedlove, President of the Cobble Hill Association.
“The rehabilitation of the BQE is an urgent transportation priority for Brooklyn residents, businesses, and the thousands of New Yorkers who rely on this major inter-borough artery every day. The project is a complex and challenging undertaking, and I look forward to consulting with NYCDOT and the panel to help ensure this much-needed project is planned with a 21st century traffic perspective to manage traffic effectively and minimize disruption to neighboring communities,” said Regina Myer, President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
“We look forward to what this project can become. Dumbo is in many ways defined by the BQE. Re-doing this section of the BQE is a major opportunity to improve the quality of life for our community and the thousands of visitors that experience the neighborhood each day,” said Alexandria Sica, Executive Director, DUMBO Improvement District.
"The DUMBO Action Committee thanks the Mayor for convening an expert panel to evaluate all of the BQE options on the table. The final plan should reflect the best ideas and solutions for every community affected by this complex project. We appreciate having a seat at the table and look forward to working collaboratively with the panel, DOT and other community organizations," said Mallory Kasdan, Co-Chair of the DUMBO Action Committee.